Honolulu Lite

Charles Memminger

Tuesday, September 16, 2003

Beware of dogs
bearing (gross) gifts

Our dog Boomer never had an excess of self-confidence. When he was a puppy, he'd pee if I yelled at him. This made things tricky, because the reason I usually yelled at him was because he was about to pee and I wanted him to go outside to do his business.

So I'd yell, "Boomer! Don't you dare ..." and, well, he'd dare. He'd just start going and going and I'd have to carry him outside like a punctured water balloon, spritzing the floor all the way to the door.

I learned that if we didn't want him to pee, I couldn't yell at him. If he was tearing up one of the couch pillows, I couldn't yell "Stop that!' or the water works would start. So I would say in soothing tones, "Boomer! You naughty boy ..." as I walked toward him ready to grab him by the nape of the neck and fling him into next week.

After several years it's gotten to the point where even if I don't yell at him he'll pee. All anyone has to do is look at him in what he perceives as an insincere manner and he'll let it rip. Now in order to get him outside to shishi I have to adopt the facial expression of a professional poker player and recite the Pythagorean Theorem in low monotone as I herd him nonchalantly toward the open door with my foot.

His latest malfunction is rolling on dead cockroaches or centipedes and wearing dead insect parts and gunk on his neck fur, like some kind of psychotic doggie badge. He seems so proud when he comes back into the house decorated with smooshed cockroach legs. ("Hey, master! Look at me!) And if I don't share his immediate enthusiasm he senses impending reproach and uncorks the bladder.

I WENT ON the Internet to find out why an almost completely normal dog would roll on dead insects and it turns out that dogs roll on all kinds of disgusting things: Other animals' feces, the carcasses of dead squirrels and rabbits ... just about any repulsive, nasty material they can find.

It's an ancient genetic dog deal, going back to when they were hunters in packs. Dog behavioral specialists -- that is, specialists who study dog behavior, not specialists who behave as dogs -- believe it's a dog's way of bringing an interesting scent back to the pack. It's a way of sharing. ("Where ya been, Rusty? Sniff, sniff, sniff ... ahah! ... found a dead moose, you lucky boy.")

With no dead mooses or squirrels to bring home, old Boomer is reduced to rolling around on dead bugs. That's kind of sad in a way. I mean, he can't bring me a beer or a hamburger, so Boomer tries to bring me -- who he sees as the alpha dog of our pack -- a little piece of happiness in the form of centipede parts or roach wings entwined in his fur. And instead of expressing gratitude, I chase him onto the deck with a broom and spray him down with the hose. If someone did that to me, I guess I'd have a bladder control problem, too.

See the Columnists section for some past articles.

Charles Memminger, winner of National Society of Newspaper Columnists awards, appears Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays. E-mail


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